Imagine you’re in the market for a new set of tires. You perform a Google search for “affordable tires Jeep Wrangler.” As you browse through Google’s search results, you click on a vendor you think has what you need (at an amazing discount, no doubt). Upon arriving on their site, you spend the next five minutes of your life trying to figure out if they even sell tires for your make and model of car, only to realize they don’t. After much frustration and wasted time, you leave their site and head back to Google for a fresh search – disappointed and no closer to reaching your initial goal.

We’ve all been there. Business websites can be a pain to navigate. They waste time, they leave a negative impression about the brand, and they aren’t helping that business reach their revenue goals. So think for a minute – when a visitor lands on YOUR company’s site, are THEY finding what they’re looking for?

Read through the following four questions, review the examples and really ask yourself whether your website is performing as well as it could be.

1. What is the primary GOAL of your website?
Lead generation? Brand awareness? Direct online sales or online fundraising? To provide news, information and entertainment to site visitors? If you’re unclear about what your site is there to do, chances are your site visitors are, too. Make a decision on what you want from your website. Many B2B companies rely on inbound leads, so they’d want to focus on optimizing their site for a lead generation strategy. Direct B2C businesses might want to sell their products online, in which case they need to ensure that they’re providing visitors with an easy way to inspect products and move on to a seamless checkout process.

As a matter of fact, it helps to have defined a goal for your website BEFORE it’s even built! That way you can ensure all written, visual and navigational content is laid out in a manner that helps your website reach its goal. Take a look at the below examples and see the difference between a website that has a clearly defined goal – and one that doesn’t.
Improve your company's website by setting GOALS
Notice how, on the second site, it’s abundantly clear what they want you to do – exchange your contact information (a lead) for a free eBook and an entry into their contest. The top site, well…tell us in the comments if you can figure out what the goal of that site may be.

Action Item: To improve your company’s website, take 15 minutes and write down what you think your website’s primary purpose should be. Then, review your site to see if it’s really doing it’s job. If it’s not, think of five things you could change right now to improve it.

2. Do your customers know what you do in < 5 seconds?
If a customer lands on the homepage of your website, can they tell you the basic idea of what your company does after looking at your site for five seconds? A common downfall of many business websites is that they try to provide too much information on the homepage, causing confusion among your visitors and risking the chance of them leaving your site.

Something that happens quite often is for a start-up company to have a beautiful, modern website. The company may have spent tens of thousands of dollars on a custom design, perfect photographs, elaborate forms and film-quality videos. The problem is that no one hired a copywriter. Their headlines are witty but unclear and that beautiful website winds up being an ugly waste of time and money. Pictures may speak a thousand words, but headlines are arguably the most important part of any website.
Improve your company's website using clear copywriting. Look at Freshbooks' homepage as an example of good headline copy
Action Item: Write one sentence, no greater than 120 words, that describes your business in a nutshell. One easy way to improve your company’s website is to make sure your homepage has a clear, short headline giving visitors a one-sentence summary of what you do. This can be in the form of an actual text headline or, depending on your site’s design, can be part of a banner or header image.

3. Can your visitors easily find what they’re looking for?
Even visitors to large corporate websites experience usability issues when it comes to site navigation. In an effort to provide site visitors with information (probably in hopes to show their expertise in their given industry), a site’s owner will overwhelm their audiences with technical data and industry mumbo jumbo. Hint: If you find yourself using the words on this list, try rewriting some of your content.

Z pattern design - logo in top left, call to action in bottom right, is important to web design success

Notice the natural reading pattern of the human eye on any website – a clear Z pattern. Photo courtesy of: http://geographicfarm.com

One easy tip to remember when building your website is this: don’t reinvent the design wheel. Most modern websites have a predictable layout and navigation pattern; most effectively – a “Z” shaped pattern. If you want to start off on the right foot in making your website the best it can be, keep your logo at the top left and your call to action at the bottom right.

Action Item: If you already have a live website, try out a random user testing site like UserTesting.com. They recruit random participants from around the world to visit your site and provide feedback on how easy (or challenging) it was to complete a specific task on your website (ex: completing the checkout process; finding contact information; making a donation).

4. Is your website connecting with the appropriate audience?
If you’ve clearly defined your target audience, you have a basic idea of what their interests are, their likes and dislikes, and what kind of information they’re searching for on Google when they’re on the lookout for a company like yours.

The easiest part of this equation is the design aesthetic of your site – it should be fitting for your target demographic. If you’re targeting pre-teens to sell them skin care products, your site should look fun, load quickly, feel real (no corporate speak here), and offer information on how they can solve their pain points. If your site looks like your local bank’s website, you’ve done something wrong.

Your website should not only take into consideration the age group of your audience, but also it’s lifestyle. Think about the difference between an upscale steak and seafood restaurant’s website versus a family diner. Each site’s audience will relate to a different look, feel, and site navigation structure. They’re also looking for different kinds of information (ex: today’s menu versus price).
Website style example showing an upscale restaurant in NYC vs a family diner in LayFayette, IN

Ask yourself the above questions about your company’s website and be honest with yourself. Building a great website is not something that happens overnight – it takes a lot of thought, planning, expert execution and testing. If you follow the above action items, you’re sure to improve your company’s website in a measurable way. Remember, you have to define your goals first and them move on from there.

What have you found makes the biggest impact on your business’s website performance? Share your thoughts and comments below.

For a free 30 minute web design consultation to help improve your company’s website, connect with the marketing pros at iima productions. iima knows how to create attractive, professional websites that convert your prospects into buyers. They’ll also help you integrate your website into your business plan by helping you connect with your customers through social media, print design, logo creation and marketing strategy.